Why have Family Councils?
Holding regular Family Councils are one of the most valuable things you can do as a family. Why? Family Councils provide an opportunity to teach children valuable problem solving skills, leadership skills, and build harmony in the home for current and future families.
Children will learn:
- Listening skills
- Brainstorming skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Mutual respect
- The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the Agenda which could be put on the fridge, so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
- Concern for others
- Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
- How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
- A sense of belonging and significance
- Social interest
- That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to do the following:
- Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
- Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
- Listen in ways that invite children to listen
- Respectfully share responsibility
- Create good memories through a family tradition
- Model all of the skills they want their children to learn
- No longer have to be the genius problem solvers of the family
If parents really understood the value of family meetings, it would be their most valuable parenting tool–and they would make every effort to schedule 15 to 30 minutes a week for family meetings.
Family Council Agenda can consist of the following:
- Evaluate last week’s solutions
- Challenges & Solutions for the week
- Schedule for the Week – what are the upcoming events, who needs rides, etc.
- Family Fun Planned (optional)
- Family Stewardships Review (optional) Give each person a stewardship for the year such as the party planner, secret service fairy, emergency preparedness guru, vacation planner, etc. Check up on each person’s stewardship progress at the family council.
Prayer: Matthew 18:20 states “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Invite God to your meeting through prayer.
Song: This is optional. When we’re short on time we omit the song, but it can be wonderful to invite a good feeling of love and harmony into the home.
Compliments: Each component of the agenda is important. Start with compliments ahead of challenges for several reasons:
- Compliments create a positive atmosphere
- Children learn to be “good finders” when they look for and verbalize the things they appreciate about family members.
- Children usually fight less when they participate in regular family meetings beginning with compliments.
- It is important to have each member of the family receive a compliment so everyone feels a sense of belonging and significance.
- Remember that compliments may sound awkward in the beginning. They get better with practice.
You will create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and to verbalize positive comments. Please don’t expect perfection. Some sibling squabbling is normal. However, when children (and parents) learn to give and receive compliments, negative tension is reduced considerably. Every person needs to get ONE COMPLIMENT at the family council meeting.
The compliments take a little time, but are worth the effort. Usually we will start by asking, “Does anyone have a compliment for dad?” The toddler will usually raise their hand and say, “He’s nice and chubby.” This will usually get us all laughing and thinking. Someone will say, “I think Dad was really nice to fix Mom’s broken chair. He’s a good handyman.” So then, I will write that compliment down on the family council agenda sheet and the name of the compliment giver in parenthesis. If we are in a hurry we will sometimes do a one word compliment or read compliments from a past week. Every single person DOES NOT have to give every single person a compliment or it would take too long. A compliment night or “ROAST” would be a fun activity another night which we usually do on birthdays, especially the 16th birthdays where we invite the whole extended family to share compliments and good memories of the special spotlight person, but during family council we keep compliments short and sweet, so there is time for discussing the weekly schedule and challenges.
Challenges & Solutions:
A lot of times when we have a challenges or a problem arises, tempers start to flare and because we may be in a rush and we’re in a hot spot, no one can think of a good solution at that time. So then the parent tells the child to be quiet or just obey because there is no time to discuss it. Then the child feels stifled, restricted, and unvalidated.
The child feels that they can’t express their feelings or control their destiny.
It’s wonderful to have weekly family council meetings where challenges are discussed in a cool, calm, and collected environment. It’s great when you’re under a ton of pressure during a busy school morning and a child says they have a better idea, or they have a challenge to discuss, and you can tell them to write it on the Family Council Agenda to discuss later.
Then the family can discuss the challenge at the weekly family meeting when everyone is unhurried and calm. Just don’t forget to have the meeting!
Many times when the meeting comes, the problem is no longer an issue and the problem is dropped. If not, then a productive discussion can ensue when their is time to discuss it.
Don’t focus on blame during your challenges. Don’t say names. Parents and children are all able to brainstorm solutions and give their ideas which should be written down and discussed. Then vote on it. Parents should vote and although they always have ultimate veto power, they should try to work out a solution that everyone can agree upon.
A Challenge & Solution Example: A True Story
We had a stray cat show up so we voted as a family to keep it on condition that the children would clean up after it. After 3 weeks no one cleaned up after it so I wrote it down the cat on the challenges that was hanging on the fridge. When Sunday rolled around we discussed it at our weekly Sunday Family Council Meeting. Ironically I, the mother, was the only one who voted to keep the cat but the children voted to send it away because they didn’t want to clean up after it. It was goodbye kitty and the problem was solved! (Don’t worry -the cat was sent to a good home out in the country where he got fat and had a great life.)
Family Meeting Jobs:
Recorder: Be sure to have someone write down all the ideas that are brainstormed. It is so much fun to look at these ideas later – as much fun as looking at old family picture albums. Circle the solution that works for everyone. Consensus is important in family meetings. If you can’t reach a consensus, table this item and try again next week.
Chairperson: Rotate this job so everyone has a chance to be the “person in charge”. The Chairperson calls the meeting to order, asks for compliments to begin, and handles the Weekly Challenges page by announcing the next challenge to be solved and following the rest of the agenda.
Timekeeper: A timekeeper can keep everyone on track so the meeting doesn’t go on and on and get boring.
1. Remember the long-range purpose: To teach valuable life skills.
2. Post an agenda where family members can write their concerns or problems or create a family council shoebox for compliments and/ or challenges.
3. Start with compliments to set the tone by verbalizing positive things about each other.
4. Brainstorm for solutions to problems. Choose one suggestion (by consensus) that is practical and respectful and try it for a week.
5. Focus on solutions, not blame
6. Calendar a family fun activity for later in the week – and all sports and other activities (including a chauffeur schedule).
7. Keep family meetings short 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ages of your children. You could end with a family fun activity, game, or dessert.
1. Use family meetings as a platform for lectures and parental control.
2. Allow children to dominate and control. (Mutual respect is the key.)
3. Skip weekly family meetings. (They should be one of the most important dates on your calendar.)
4. Forget that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.
5. Forget that learning skills takes time. Even solutions that don’t work provide an opportunity to learn and try again—always focusing on respect and solutions.
6. Expect children under the age of four to participate in the process. (If younger children are too distracting, wait until they are in bed.)
Type up a Family Council Agenda forms.
Print out 10 blank family council agenda forms and put them in a file or 3-ring binder so you are always ready for your meeting. Hang the agenda on the fridge during the week so people can write challenges in that section. Fill out the rest of the agenda during your meeting: write the compliments, proposed, and resolved solutions too. This worksheet holds the critical minutes of your families life! There’s gold in them thar’ notes!
There are many benefits to having a WRITTEN family council agenda record which are the following:
- You will have a journal of your family life. Maybe your not a meticulous journal writer. By filling out a family council agenda weekly you will have a record of challenges, compliments, and solutions about your own family. These worksheets will bring back funny memories in the years to come. For example, our families challenge recently has been not turning off the lights and our new solution is to charge every child a penny for every light a parent has to turn off. When you earn $8 a month a penny a light can be quite motivating. Remember to put your agenda in a three ring binder for safe keeping.
- You can remember what you discussed last week.You can see what the solutions was, and see how it was implement and if the problem was resolved.
- You can see what worked in the past to solve family problems.You can peruse through old family council agendas to get ideas to solve problems.
- You will have something to laugh about in the future.All those frustrating challenges in the years to come will appear funny once they have been seasoned with time.
- You will have a treasury of written compliments to reread.I get at least one compliment a week – which is 52 a year. It’s written down. Over the week I think back on my compliment and treasure the memory of appreciation, love, and respect.
It is so worth it to have family council meetings. When you are a parent you are in charge of a business – the business of raising a successful family. You need these safe, calm meetings to coordinate and refine your home into a place that creates warm memories for years to come.